47th Meeting Cambridge, 2004: Report

The following report is an excerpt of a text which combined an introduction to the PIAC and a report of the 47th Annual Meeting published under the title “PIAC (Uluslararası Sürekli Altayistler Konferansı) ve 47. PIAC (PIAC “Permanent International Altaistic Conference” and 47th PIAC), 2004.”

47th Annual Meeting of the Permanent International Altaistic Conference (PIAC)

Süer Eker, Başkent University, Ankara

1. Meeting

The main theme of this year’s 47th Annual Meeting of the Permanent International Altaistic Conference (PIAC) convened in Cambridge was “Tradition and Modernity in Altaic Lands.”

The meeting was held at Queen’s College, University of Cambridge, one of the UK’s most established teaching institutions, and was organised by the Cambridge Central Asia Forum. Other supporting organisations were Eastern Studies, the Mongolia and Inner Asia Studies Unit and the UK Committee for Central and Inner Asia.

Scholars from the USA, Austria, France, the UK, Japan, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, Hungary, Uzbekistan, Poland, Italy, the Russian Federation and Turkiye participated in the meeting with their papers or as audience. It was observed that young researchers were also interested in the meeting. The Russian Federation and Japan took the first places in terms of the number of participants.

The meeting was chaired by Nicholas Postgate, a world-renowned archaeologist from Cambridge University, who took part in the Kilise Tepe project in Turkey. Prof. Dr. Şükrü Halûk Akalın of the Turkish delegation was the former President and guest of honour, and the Convenor was Siddarth Saxena, Low Temperature Physicist, and Honorary Secretary of the UK Committee for Central and Inner Asia. The Conference Secretaries were Aptin Khanbaghi and Claudia Liuzza, Iranists from Cambridge University. The meeting was marked by traditional British hospitality, and in particular the organiser S. Saxena and the conference secretaries were very helpful and supportive of the participants.

On 30 July 2004, after the arrival of PIAC members and other guests at Queen’s College, the meeting registration took place, followed by a welcome reception. During the reception and the following dinner, PIAC participants had the opportunity to meet and renew old friendships. This year, compared to previous years, the attendance was lower.

The official opening was held at 09:30 on 31 July 2004. In the first session, after the traditional speeches of the Secretary General and the President, during the so-called Confessions the participants took turns to introduce themselves and their work. This year, due to the relatively low number of participants, a single session was organised instead of parallel sessions.

During the meeting, the PIAC participants had the opportunity to visit the neighbouring teaching institutions, in particular the Faculty of Oriental Studies and its other units, including the library. The library of the Faculty was particularly rich in Indian, Arabic, Persian, Hebrew and Mongolian books, with a small number of Turkish publications on the shelves, most of them old.

2. Proceedings

Of the 35 papers in the official PIAC programme, 22 were directly or indirectly related to Turkology. After Turkology, Mongolian studies ranked second with 7 papers, and 6 papers were related to Japanese studies and other fields. Notes on some of the papers, especially those related to Turkological research, are as follows:

Prof. Dr. Zeynep Korkmaz‘s paper titled “Sociolinguistic Change During the Modernization Movement Period in Turkish” was met with great interest by the participants. In her paper, Zeynep Korkmaz gave place to the Turkish Language Reform and its achievements and underlined that Turkish is today a cultural language with a vocabulary of two hundred thousand words. After her presentation, the participants expressed their opinions that the parallels between the language reform in Turkey and the language reform in Mongolia should be investigated.

Prof. Dr. Şükrü Halûk Akalın‘s presentation, in which he introduced the latest developments in the dictionary studies of the Turkish Language Institution (Türk Dil Kurumu), attracted great interest from the participants both in terms of its content and messages and its multimedia presentation. At the end of the presentation, images of the 46th PIAC meeting held in Ankara were a very nice surprise for the participants.

Gülseren Akalın from Çukurova University, in her paper titled ‘Modernity in Turkey and Modernist Ahmet Ağaoğlu’, focused on the role of Ağaoğlu, a man of thought and action of Azerbaijani origin, in the history of modernisation. Gülin Öğüt Eker from Hacettepe University, in her paper titled ‘Modernity That Has Become A Tradition’, stated that modernity creates its own tradition. Süer Eker from Başkent University, in his paper titled ‘Number of Phonemes in Turkish’, expressed his views on the issues that should be taken into consideration in determining the phonemes of Turkish and the number of vowel and consonant phonemes in standard Turkish.

Polish-based Turkish language Instructor Bahar Soylu, presented “Cross-Cultural Variations of the Cooperative Principle: A Case of Native Speakers of Turkish and English”, she presented a research based on method, theory and experiment on language teaching, especially teaching Turkish as a second language.

İsmail Bozkurt, Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, presented “An Altaistic Tradition of Turkish Cypriots: March Nine (9th March)”; he gave information about the tradition similar to the Nowruz holiday, which was celebrated in some villages of Larnaca in Southern Cyprus before 1974 and today in the TRNC borders by the Muhajirs of the same villages.

The famous Hungarian Turcologist András Róna-Tas attracted attention with his paper entitled “Traditional and modern wine culture of the Turks”. Róna-Tas highlighted aspects of Turkish winemaking and wine culture through words copied from the Turkic languages of the Chuvash type spoken by the Bulgarians and Khazars and their etymologies, within the framework of words such as süçig, bor and çakır etc. in Turkic languages, which are examples of the transition from milk culture to wine culture. Róna-Tas’ attribution of the word çakır to a verb *ça- in the sense of “to become white, to be white” and his statement that süci and çakır refer to white wine were new information for Turkology.

Naila Bekmakhanova from Russia provided information on the number and settlements of Kyrgyz living in Russian Kyrgyzstan in the XIXth and early XXth centuries. Bekmakhanova reported that in 1917, the proportion of Kyrgyz people in the total Russian population decreased from 0.51 to 0.43 per cent and then to 0.08 per cent, mainly due to migration.

Károly Laszló, a PhD student from Hungary, in his linguistic study of human diseases and their treatment methods in Yakutia, based on the records kept by those exiled to Siberia in Tsarist Russia, emphasised some terms that are well known to Yakuts but not included in dictionaries.

The Japanese researcher Hiroki Takakura described the nature of the ethnographic studies carried out around three Saha (Yakut) intellectuals from the early 20th century to the 1930s and the Marxist-Leninist orientation of these studies. Another Japanese researcher, Takashi Osawa, spoke of the deer culture among the ancient Turkic tribes.

Polish linguist Edward Tryjarski, who is especially known for his studies on historical Kipchak scripts and Armenian Kipchak, spoke about the current state of Armenian Kipchak studies in his paper.

Synaru Alymkulova from Kyrgyzstan emphasized the borders of Dasht-Kipchak geography through Arabic and Russian medieval sources. Dr Rosa Tadinova from the Institute of Linguistics of the Moscow Academy of Sciences, in her paper “The word ige in the beliefs of Turkic communities” she mentioned that the traces of Tengrist and Shamanist beliefs have survived to this day through the speakers of Turkic written languages and dialects.

Galina Wood from Altai State University sharedher observations on the current state of the Altai language in the Altai Republic. Tamara Sadalova, also from the Altai Republic, discussed the traditional understanding of the universe of the Altai communities, explaining the ethno-psychological aspects of the unity of the Turkic and Mongolian peoples of Central Asia. The Japanese scholar Hidehiro Okada presented a paper on the processes of Altaisation in China from 221 BC to 1895 AD and beyond.

The Hungarian historian István Zimonyi‘s presented an interesting paper on the process of Islamisation in this geography in the 11th to 13th centuries, especially through the Islamic armies and Muslim merchants reaching Eastern Europe. According to the researcher, the spread of Christianity to the east and Islam to the west resulted in the Christianisation of Hungarians, Poles, Bohemians and Kievan Rus’ and the Islamisation of Turkic tribes such as Volga Bulgarians and others.

Japanese researcher Junko Miyakawi-Okada‘s study titled “The Japanese Origin of the Chingis Khan Legend” was among the noteworthy papers. Junko Miyakawi-Okada stated that when a Japanese hears the words “Mongol” or “Mongolia”, there are three associations. Firstly, the story of the ancestors of the Japanese imperial family who came to Japan from the plateaus of Mongolia via the Korean Peninsula and conquered this country; secondly, the notion that Genghis Khan was actually a Japanese general; and finally, the story of the Mongolian armies’ plan to invade Japan in the 13th century, which was foiled by a typhoon later known as Kamikaze. Junko Miyakawi-Okada explained in detail the work and thoughts of Kencho Suyematsu, a Japanese statesman and researcher born in 1885, who studied at Cambridge, about the identity of Genghis Khan.

At the 47th PIAC meeting, Mongolian studies also had an important place. In her paper titled “Dying as a Mongol”, Gaëlle Lacaze presented her observation and fieldwork-based studies on childhood, adulthood and old age stages of Mongolian traditions. Rodica Pop‘s paper was on the institution of marriage among Mongols. The Austrian researcher M.-Katharina Lang presented the Hans Leder Collection in the Ethnological Museum Vienna, which can be described as a “treasure trove of traditions” for modern Mongolia. David Sneath from Cambridge University also gave interesting information about the synthesis of urbanisation and traditional Mongolian life. Similarly, K. Swancutt, also from Cambridge University, gave a detailed assessment of the concepts and understandings of social development and modernity in Mongolia. Russian researcher Elena Boykova‘s paper was about the reflections of the Russian and Japanese rivalry in the field of education in Mongolia in the early twentieth century.

At the Business Meeting held after the paper presentations and Closing Comments, the recipient of this year’s PIAC Medal was determined by the votes of PIAC members and it was announced that the 48th meeting will be held in the Russian Federation.

On the last day of the meeting, the organisers and participants had the opportunity to meet one last time at the cocktail and dinner hosted by the Organising Committee.